Spurred by Matt Drudge, the right-wing commentariat is buzzing over President Obama's videotaped appeal to his supporters, in which he asks them to gear up for the 2010 midterms and help turn out the same voters who came out to vote in 2008:
In 2010, it will be up to each of you to ask folks like Claudia to stay involved, and to explain why, this year, the stakes are higher than ever. It will be up to each of you to make sure that the young people, African-Americans, Latinos, and women who powered our victory in 2008 stand together once again.
Because Obama used the words “African-American” and “Latino,” Drudge put up the headline: “Obama plays race card: Rallies blacks, Latinos for '10 upset.” Drudge's inflammatory headline was then picked up by the rest of the conservative echo chamber, from third-rate bloggers all the way up to Boss Limbaugh.
This is so dumb it hurts.
Obama isn't playing the “race card.” He's appealing to the constituencies that put him in the White House. Here's CNN's analysis of the 2008 exit polling: “Strong support from young and minority voters propelled Barack Obama on the road to the White House, exit polls showed Tuesday.”
This is kind of what politicians do -- they ask their strongest supporters to keep supporting them.
Another thing politicians do is try to make inroads into constituencies that typically vote for their opponents. That's exactly what Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele did last February when he told the Washington Times that he planned to specifically target Hispanic and black voters as part of a new “urban-suburban hip hop” outreach program, probably because (as noted above) they voted overwhelmingly for the Democrat in 2008:
“There was underlying concerns we had become too regionalized and the party needed to reach beyond our comfort” zones, he said, citing defeats in such states as Virginia and North Carolina. “We need messengers to really capture that region - young, Hispanic, black, a cross section ... We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings.”
But, he elaborated with a laugh, “we need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets.”
And then there's former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. At the 2009 Senate House GOP Fundraising Dinner, Gingrich urged Republicans to “reach out to African Americans, to Koreans, to Vietnamese, to Chinese, to Indians, to Latinos.”
I don't recall too many people accusing Steele or Gingrich of playing the “race card” back then. That's because Steele and Gingrich were simply playing politics and encouraging their party to expand their voter base.
Like I said, that's kind of what politicians do.
UPDATE: Fox News predictably gets in the game as America Live anchor Megyn Kelly takes the “just asking” approach to whether or not Obama played the “race card,” posing the question to former Bush official Brad Blakeman. And Blakeman -- a dyed-in-the-wool GOP hack who has every incentive to malign the Democratic president -- shoots down the “race card” garbage, telling Kelly that Republicans should be doing the same thing and that Obama “was not being divisive at all” :